How do I prepare for court?

 

Before court

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image of legal adviceTry to get legal adviceACTNSWNTQldSATasVicWA as soon as you can before you go to court.

 

 

 

image of person thinking about courtYou can get free legal advice from your local Legal Aid officeACTNSWNTQldSATasVicWA, Family Advocacy and Support Service or community legal centre. Some private lawyers offer you a free first appointment if you ask.

 

 

image of a lawyerYou may be able to get a lawyer who either works for Legal Aid or is paid by Legal Aid to represent you in your case.

 

 

 

image of moneyLegal Aid will look at what type of case you have, how much you earn and what you own, like property or money, when it decides if they will pay a lawyer to handle your case. This is called getting legal aid.
You can get legal aid even if the other side, like your ex-partner, is getting legal aid too.

 

 

image of a person on the phoneTo find out if you are eligible for legal aid, contact your local Legal Aid officeACTNSWNTQldSATasVicWA.

Choose your State or Territory for services that can provide get legal adviceACTNSWNTQldSATasVicWA.

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image of person providing supportIf it’s your first time at court for a family law case and you aren’t sure what to expect, contact your Family Advocacy and Support Service.

They have social and legal support to help you feel more prepared for court. They also have lawyers and support workers at some of the courts to help you on the day. Some courts also have other support services.

 

 

image of a helping handIf you have experienced domestic and family violence you may also be able to apply for compensation or support through a victim’s compensation scheme. Each State and Territory have their own scheme, they each have different names and different laws about what support they offer, time limits and who is eligible.

You can get legal adviceACTNSWNTQldSATasVicWA about this, or contact the victim’s compensation schemeACTNSWNTQldSATasVicWA where the domestic and family violence happened.

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image of adult sitting with childThe Family Courts generally don’t have child care. Try to organise for someone to look after your children when you have to go to court.

If you are in Western Australia, there are some child minding services at the Family Court in Perth. For more information, see the Family Court of Western Australia website.

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On the day

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image of documentsMake sure you have all your documents organised and ready.

image of person providing supportBring a friend or family member as a support person if you want.

image of person writingTake pens and a notebook so you can write notes.

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You should dress neatly and tidily, like you are going to a job interview. Don’t wear a hat or sunglasses in the courtroom.

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image of courtTry to get to court early so you can speak with your lawyer.

 

image of a watchBe at least 15 minutes early and check which courtroom you are meant to be in.

 

 

Be prepared to be at court for most of the day. You may have to wait a while before your case is called. There may be other cases ahead of you.

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image of person thinking about courtIt is very important to go to court.

 

 

 

image of a gavelIf you don’t go to court, the court may go ahead and make orders about your children without hearing your side of the story.

 

image of a person on the phoneIf you can’t go for a good reason you must call your lawyer or the court and let them know.

image of an injured personIf you are very sick and can’t go, make sure you get a doctor’s certificate to prove this.

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image of legal adviceLet your lawyer know you have arrived so you can talk to them. If you don’t have a lawyer, you can ask court staff if there’s a ‘duty lawyer’ you can speak to.

image of courtOtherwise go to the courtroom and let the Court Officer know you are there. The Court Officer is usually near the courtroom before court starts to make sure people have arrived.

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image of person thinking about courtSome Family Courts have lawyers who can give you free assistance on the day about your case. They are sometimes called ‘duty lawyers’.

image of legal adviceThey will not take on your case as your lawyer every time you go to court. They can help with legal advice and some urgent applications.

image of a watchYou don’t need an appointment, but if you need legal help, you should arrive early on your court date.

image of a person on the phoneFor more information, contact your Family Advocacy and Support Service.

 

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Turn your mobile phone off before you go into the courtroom.

If you want to, you can bow to the Magistrate as you enter and leave the courtroom. This is a custom that some people do to show respect for the court’s role and powers.

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image of person giving evidenceIf you need to talk to the Judge, call them ‘Your Honour’ and be polite.

If you have a lawyer, you will sit behind them in court and they will do the talking for you.

If you are representing yourself, stand up when the Judge talks to you, and stand up when you talk to the Judge.
Stay seated when someone else is talking (like the other person or their lawyer).

Do not talk over the top of other people.

If you are worried about giving evidence, see I have to give evidence – what will happen?

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image of a calendarOften when your case first goes to court, it will be adjourned. This means it will be postponed so a final decision can be made later.

 

 

image of an interim orderIf this happens, the court may make interim (temporary) orders which usually last until a final decision is made or a new interim order is made.

 

 

image of courtYou may have to go to court several times before your case is finished.

 

 

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Video

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Quick Exit

© Copyright National Legal Aid 2019. All rights reserved. All illustrations by Frances Cannon.

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